Paediatric Guide

Childhood obesity is an increasingly serious public health problem in our country, and more so in our Autonomous Community where one third of children are overweight and 18% suffer from obesity.

Changes in lifestyle, social and working arrangements that Spanish society has experienced have caused a significant increase in the obesity of the child population. Traditional diets have been replaced by others with a greater energy density, which means more added fat and sugar in foods, together with a reduction in the consumption of fruit, vegetables, cereals and legumes. Moreover, these dietary changes combine unfavourably with lifestyles in which energy expenditure deriving from physical activity has reduced, owing to more comfortable lifestyles (motorised transport), lifts, central heating and air conditioning) and sedentary leisure activities, (TV, videos).

One of the greatest problems of childhood obesity is the risk that it will be perpetuated in adulthood, with the significant burden of associated disease. The persistence of obesity into adulthood brings with it associated comorbidities and diseases that tend to aggregate with those present since childhood. Some of the psychosocial or orthopaedic consequences are obvious, but others remain hidden and unnoticed, and it is those of an atherogenic character that present a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

Reversing the increasing trend in the prevalence of obesity, which is currently reaching the level of a global pandemic, is a task that must be started in childhood, when eating habits and lifestyles begin to set in, which, from adolescence become very resistant to change and become established for life.

With this guide, we hope that parents, the whole family in general, educators, and those responsible for food and health during childhood and adolescence, have a few recommendations on food and nutrition, to help them develop a varied diet, balanced and taste of these consumers, making the food not only a necessity but a pleasure.

Eating habits, physical activity, and lifestyles are crucial in childhood for the prevention, in adulthood, of the appearance of chronic diet-related diseases (cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, insulin resistance, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis), and with eating behaviour (anorexia and obesity), and in addition, for the maintenance of organs in optimal condition for healthy ageing.

We do not want to conclude this introduction without mentioning the great imbalances that still exist among those most vulnerable and dependent members of modern society. In the year 2002 there were 22 million under 5´s in the world with excess weight, almost as many that die from lack of food. Over the years these figures have increased to 43 million under 5´s with overweight, in 2010.

While some may gorge on food, others have nothing to fill their mouths. We are forgetting a parameter of optimal nutrition, the responsibility to feed everyone with equitable criteria.

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